Monday, 31 October 2016

Stack that cheese

Ghost town competitions. There’s probably an official name for them in the comping community, but that’s what I like to call super-low entry comps - the ones where the number of entrants doesn’t even hit double figures. The comps that have flown under the radar.

I confess that I’ve never asked, but I’m pretty sure that promoters hate it when this happens. They’ve endeavoured to create buzz around their brand, but for whatever reason, it just hasn’t happened.
Understandably, some of these promoters aren’t in a hurry to announce their winners. They’re not exactly leaving the masses hanging, after all. They also have plenty of other, more pressing, demands on their time.

With notable exceptions, most people are only human, and it's all too easy for these demands to muscle their way to the top of their to-do list. Before you know it, that little job of picking a winner gets put off, postponed and sometimes even forgotten entirely.

For me, this period is even more excruciating than waiting for a big-prize announcement - at least with big prizes, I can be reasonably sure that the chance of winning is minimal and I might as well forget I entered in the first place. If, however, my odds of winning are better than one in ten, it just eats me. (I imagine it's even worse if it's a low-entry effort-based comp where the other entries are a matter of public record and you know - you just know - that that your entry was, objectively speaking, way more totally the awesomest!)

Anyway, back in May, Pilgrims Choice ran a competition to win a heap of cheese - which is to say, a heap of cheese vouchers (a year’s worth of cheddar delivered on a single pallet would be a bittersweet prize, to say the least). They asked to see Joe Public’s cheesy dance moves. Sadly for them, Joe Public was shy. Despite the company having many thousands of Facebook followers, only three were inclined to share a video.

(At this point, I should stress that my entry was categorically NOT as awesome as humanly possible; I was simply one of the three people to share a video.)

The competition closed, but no winner was announced. Folks kindly asked on my behalf whether the winner had been chosen - still there was silence. I followed up on Twitter - still nothing. One of the other entrants asked too. Nada.

And so the pursuit of cheddar fell down my to-do list, displaced by the obscene number of tedious chores associated with parenting, and by October, I’d largely forgotten the competition. Until, that is, on some hashtag day or other, I found an excuse to tweet the promoter about an altogether unrelated matter, and by way of a blag, sent them a link to my video. They liked it enough to send a few vouchers my way, blessing me with cheese and the warm sense of reassurance that, although it might not have been quite what I had in mind, at least it hadn’t all been in vain and, perhaps more importantly, I could draw a line under it.

But fate snatched that pencil from my greasy paw - a week later, the promoter contacted me on Facebook to let me know I’d won the May competition after all!

He's a cheesy brother...

I’d love to say it was my nudge that edged it, but the very next day, one of the other entrants contacted me to congratulate me - it turned out that she too been seeking closure, and just a couple of days prior had contacted the promoter to see if any winners had been announced.

Cheese aside, there are some key lessons takeaways here - and perseverance is just one of them. The most important of all, however: never underestimate the value of being part of a community!

How good are you at playing the waiting game? What’s the longest you’ve had to wait? Do you find yourself getting more impatient with low-entry comps, even if the prizes are smaller?

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Desert boots

The past few weeks haven’t been so kind to me (Instagram, was it something I said?!), so that probably means it’s time to mix up my game a little. Among other things, I'm giving special consideration to checking out some old haunts.

In the grand scheme of things, Pinterest is one of my oldest stomping grounds. But it's been a while - I haven’t won anything there since my first year of comping. In fact, it’s pushing two years since I’ve paid it a second's thought, in a comping sense at the very least.

Back in my first year of comping, however, I won a couple of prizes through Pinterest - one for a Father’s Day board and one for a board dedicated to outdoor living. The Father's Day board was my first ever attempt at a Pinterest comp (and it shows!) but fortune smiled on me as there weren't many entrants; the latter one, however, took a lot more effort, but as it was for a £100 Wild & Wolf voucher and there was plenty of time to work on it, I figured it was worth a crack.

I was still a total novice when I put this board together, and was yet to see any of the guides to making kick-ass boards (such as Di Coke's tutorial or the tips available to Compers News subscribers), so there was no way anyone was ever going to think my higgledy piggledy effort had been put together by a professional...

Pinterest board preview

Pinterest board preview

Where it did succeed, however, was in the comments. Pinterest is (spoiler!) a highly visual social media channel, but people forget that a picture says a thousand words, and quite often, that leaves too much to the imagination. In this case, I figured that promoters like folks to engage with their brands, so I made as many puns as I could based on the words “wild” and “wolf” and the company’s different product lines ... and you know what? It turns out that someone out there does actually like dad jokes!

Happy days, but as I mentioned, I've not been back to Pinterest for a while now. Perhaps it's about time I reacquainted myself...

Do you ever get dry spells? How do you turn round your luck? And have you seen any good Pinterest comps lately?!

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

The Tube

In case you missed it, Safestore is running a ​Spooktacular Writing Competition for Halloween. The prize is a £50 Waterstones voucher. I've not done any creative writing for a while, so thought the practice would do me good. This is my entry - hope you like it!

Oh, hi there … yes, my wife has just kicked me out so I need to rent somewhere to put my gear till I can get a new place sorted.’

‘An hour it took us. From Sheffield till it spits you out at Farringdon. I’ll be damned if there’s a faster way to get here. But you’d not do it twice.’

‘Erm, sorry old boy? Perhaps you misheard me? I just need to rent a unit, perhaps 25 square feet...’

‘The unholy stench at the end is the least of it. That washes away after a week or so. The bruises, they heal too. The acid burns? Well, the scabs last months and the scars they stay. Everyone knows if you came by tube. You can’t hide the scars.’

‘You’re having a laugh aren’t you? I see that cheeky glint in your eye…’

‘I miss my wife, my lads, course I do. But they’re richer without me. I can’t provide owt. What do I know about cutlery? That’s why they put us in the tube - poaching albatross.’

‘Sorry, could you brush some of that beard out of your mouth, only I thought you said albatross?’

‘And heaven help those what test the watch. Contempt of deportation they call it. And if you’re in it, you get yourself deported some more - but this time with your kin. And there ain’t no child has ever come through that passage alive.’

‘Can we wind this up, only I’m late for my bassoon class…’

‘I was lucky to make it through as I did. I say lucky, but it’s the worst what makes it through. The bad - they’re bitter - too bitter to keep down. That’s why they’re dumped out here, in this sewer of sin.’

‘Hold on a minute - that's not you on your lanyard - it's a sticker of a albatross, isn't it?!’

‘The gamblers, they don’t move on. They prey on those what’s still wet behind the ears - and failing that, one another. The robbers, they congregate out west with the swindlers and schemers. The murderers, they go wherever they want. Who’d stop 'em?
Some are big enough to do it again. Not me - no one, no thing’s gonna swallow me again. Look at this skin - I’m nigh-consumed already. I’d never make it past the tongues. The untold tongues, flailing around for something to latch onto or lacerate. Tongues as big as circus vipers, flaying you softly, like a cat’s tongue through butter. I’d come through all right, but not in one piece. Not with those teeth. No bigger than yours or mine, I’d say - but every one as sharp as needles. Have you ever been dragged over a bed of nails and dropped in a cauldron of scalding vinegar? Because that’s what the next chamber feels like. The good, they die there. Fertiliser for this blessed plot.
For the rest, our breath is nigh snuffed as we’re pounded and harried through that eternally dark, oppressively putrid tunnel, until ultimately we pass through the sphincter of John Bull, usually more dead than alive.
Aye, that’s the tube. Setting forth from all over and terminating only in death or damnation.’

‘I'll come back later.’

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Select it. Project it. Expect it. Collect it.

Mostly, I don’t hold out for specific wins. Sure, hope springs eternal, but that’s not quite the same as hardcore expectation. That’s not to say I never follow the mantra - I expected pretty hard for a summer holiday, to the extent that I even renewed the first-born’s passport. But nothing did I collect. Maybe I didn’t project hard enough…

Projecting and expecting is possibly easier with the creative comps. You put more into them - and sometimes you even get to see the competition, so you have an idea of how good you are doing versus the pack. That said, it’s easy to lose objectivity here - the two weeks my wife entered the Chicago Town dance-off I was convinced she was going to be the winner. She didn’t even place on the first week, and I was mad as a cat in a hot tin bath. Not least as it was her first attempt at comping, and she dances a million times better than I do.

But back to the moment: I am, as we speak, once more on max expectation.

Joules recently ran a competition to write a wee children’s book. The prize is not just a £1000 Joules giftcard, but also a Micro scooter (something from my wishlist!) and a heap of Puffin books. By my own broad measure, that makes the prize niiiiiiiiiiiice, at the very least.

Per the Joules logo, the lead character of my story is a hare (not a rabbit - I checked!); he rides a scooter and his best mate is a puffin. Heck, I even named him after the company’s CEO and the puffin after one of their tweed blazers! Too much, perhaps? After all, nobody likes a try-hard … Oh well - the deadline is now well past, so it’s out of my hands … All that’s left to do now is to expect - harder than I’ve ever expected before - till the end of October.

Tom Hare - from a Joules competition

In the meantime, if you’ve got any spare capacity for projecting or expecting on my behalf, I’d be very grateful!

Do you project, expect and collect? Are you waiting to collect anything particular right now? Perhaps you entered this one too? If so, do you fancy sharing your story? You can see mine here if you want to compare!